Monday, April 23, 2007


I'm furious.  I'm bilious.  I'm tee-ohed.  You've heard the NRA mantra: take away all the guns and then only the criminals will have them.  In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre they've taken that axiom to a new level.  Somehow the extent of the massacre, the number of people killed, was the result of the fact that there were too few guns on campus, or that the campus banned guns entirely.  Apparently the NRA believes that having college students all packing heat is the answer to the Cho Seung-Huis of this world.  That seems to me to be a recipe for utter mayhem.  There are a number of things we can do to minimize the damage these killers inflict short of arming everyone. 

First, mental health.  As a society we need to spot those in need of treatment for antisocial or violent tendencies.  Apparently, when Cho "agreed" to treatment after being judged a danger to himself and others, he went into the medical system and at the same time, left the judicial system.  Which as a practical matter meant that he was covered by the medical system's privacy laws.  That loophole needs to be removed pronto.  The consequences for antisocial or violent psychopathology must be at least equal to drunk driving!

Training.  Colleges should start offering training on how to deal with situations such as these--how to deal with urban terrorist attacks.  When it is best to try to flee, when to hide, when to try to mount a counterattack.  What kinds of strategies kids can use to try to disarm a gunman.  (I suppose as soon as you train them in that, the gunmen switch to suicide bombs).

Make desks out of lightweight, bullet proof material that can be used as shields when rushing a gunman.

Have a dedicated alarm system for gunmen/terrorist installed in every campus building, or worked into every fire alarm in every building. 

One Seattle PI letter writer pointed to the Salt Lake City mall shooter as an example of a killer who was taken out by a passerby with a handgun in a "gun free" zone.  This particular individual was an off-duty cop who took his hand gun into the mall with him against the rules.  But he was a trained professional. 

As a moderate, I agree with the idea that all reasonable, rational people should have access to firearms.  But I don't think that the answer is to simply arm the populace.  I don't mean to sound, well, mean, but a lot of college students are really stupid (immature), and they can be depended upon to do stupid, immature things with (or without) guns.  And there will be some people who won't want guns.  Hard to imagine, but true.

I just don't get these gung-ho Rambo fetishists with their "guns are a solution to America's problems" mind-set.  Neanderthals. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

One of the stated topics of this journal is crime, and so I will opine briefly on the shooter in yesterday's Virginia Tech massacre.  The most detailed article I've read has been at Fox News.  Cho Seung-Hui, 23, has been identified as the alleged killer.  Seeing a photograph of  policeman restraining an Asian male on the grounds of VT yesterday I suspected that the killer was being described by witnesses of the rampage as an Asian male. 

Apparently, Cho was a solitary child, who grew up in Centerville, Virginia with parents who owned and operated a laundry.  A neighborhood friend of the family said that Cho would not react when he was greeted.  He's also been described as a loner.  But he was also an English major and a writer, and writing is solitary by nature.  However, it seems quite evident that Cho was not merely a loner (I'm a loner), he was deeply antisocial and possibly paranoid schizophrenic. 

According to the Fox story, "ISMAIL AX" was written on the young man's arm, a possible reference to the Koranic version of the story of Abraham.  It will be interesting in the days ahead to see if Cho possessed any religious views.  Even if he did it is doubtful they can afford any kind of proof of an Islamicist bent--more likely--if a connection could be made, I would speculate that it would be along the lines of an excuse for narcissistic rage building toward critical mass. 

I further speculate that something was organically wrong with Cho.  That doesn't excuse his evil--but it may be why this type of crime doesn't happen more often than it does. 

Thursday, April 5, 2007

An Actor's Life for Me--NOT!

Take a look at this video, surreptitiously taped on the set of I Heart Huckabees, of Lily Tomlin and director David O. Russell in full bore flame-out at each other's throats.  Warning: extremely foul language.  The invective drips through the internet and into your ears.  Here is such poison, such hatred, such bile.  Can you possibly imagine this kind of behavior in any other work environment (other than John Bolton's offices, perhaps?)  This is why I gave up theater.  While lawyers are just as difficult as actors, they are nowhere near as pampered, spoiled or bratty.  This reflects very poorly on Ms. Tomlin.  Russell may not be an "actor's director" (his Three Kings is brrrilliant), but she's obviously not doing her job.  Her fans, many of whom have left comments on the You Tube site, cheer her on for her assertiveness, but the truth of the matter is that she's being completely unprofessional.  Rather than finding a way to play the scene, she resists every step of the way until the director explodes in anger as her resistence is clearly calculated to make him do.  This was definitely Edith-Ann's evil twin.

Sorry, I LOVE Lily Tomlin--and though I've rarely had to deal with anyone this tempermental, I would have walked off this set and never returned.  Life is simply too short. 

The problem is, at this level, the people I work for--Lawyers--quickly get involved.  With millions riding on films you don't have the luxury of picking and choosing who you work for and with.  No wonder people in Hollywood are all drunks, addicts and sex fiends.  I am so grateful to be done with this life!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Hating Old Glory

Over the past few days I watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a BBC dramatization of one of John Le Carre's Smiley novels.  Alec Guinness plays the British spymaster extraordinary, who almost always seems past his prime but always proves to be well on top of his game.  The phrase that thundered out at me in this production was a line of dialogue from the mole, exposed in the final episode to be one of the top officials in the Circus, who has been giving intelligence to the soviets for decades.  "I hate America" he says, with such British reserve it cannot be doubted, it must be paid attention to.  Immediately I bristled.  How can he possibly hate America, after America saved Britain from annihilation by Hitler?  Even if he is a communist?

Of course, that's how WE see it.  The British may have an entirely different view.  Certainly the soviets did.  After the war, according to Bernard Lewis, the Soviets armed Israel, in defiance of an American/British embargo because Stalin mistakenly believed that Britain had as great an influence in world affairs as it did before the Second World War.  And anything contrary to Britain's will served Stalin.  It took a few years for him to realize his error.  By then, Israel was loaded for (and by) the bear.

Maybe the British really do feel that they held out against impossible odds and that the yankee come lately Americans really did tip the balance only to defeat Hitler, but not to literally save England.  That England would have resisted invasion for ever.  Things were going badly for Germany in the East.  Perhaps a truce could have been negotiated. 

In any event there's absolutely no possible way that Hitler could have invaded and kept England.  France simply gave up.  Think of the amount of men and material they would have had to move across the English Channel to occupy and hold the Island?  England true to Churchill's word, would have fought to the last man standing, making today's Iraq look like a picnic. 

And America?  Was there ever a chance any possible chance, ever in the world that the Axis could ever have invaded and occupied America?  Inconceivable.  Impossible.  Too much land mass.  Too many people.  Too many guns.  Too much infrastructure.  Too much freedom.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Islam Again

I Read The Crisis of Islam by Bernard Lewis this weekend.  A marvelous read.  Intelligent, erudite, and without a political axe to grind that I could see.  Fair, seemingly, to both sides.  He manages in the space of just a few hundred pages to frame the issues in historical context from the birth of Islam through the middle ages and into the present; the problems with European imperialism in the 19th Century and the formation of the state of Israel in the 20th.  The crisis is such a stew of ingredients, such a hearty mix, that one item (such as the formation of the state of Israel) cannot be pointed at and declaimed "there is the cause!"  Rather it is a far more subtle interaction of disparate elements. 

I had several moments of epiphany reading the book.  The chief ah-ha moment was this: the Crisis of Islam is Islam's crisis.  I have been made to feel fear.  Western European democracy is in danger of being supplanted by shiara law, or at the minimum, the formation of a dual society in which German Muslims, for instance, would be subject to shiara law.  Theo Van Gogh was murdered in the street by a Islamic zealot because he dared criticize Islam.  Thus, in two more generations, when the decendants of muslim immigrants far outnumber white European Christans, and vote down representative democracy in their final triumph--the use of democracy to destroy democracy--then their true 1000 year attempt to invade and conquer Europe, will have succeeded.

This, of course, is the dire threat painted by Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly.  They see all muslims as one.  This is the hallmark of the bigot.  Over-generalization.  Not all muslims are fanatics.  This is what Bernard Lewis points out in his wonderful historical overview.  Far more Islamic blood has been spilled by muslims than by Christians.  Islam has no swords-to-poughshares mentality.  There are no beatitudes in the Koran.  Lewis says that to analogize Mohammed's relationship to the Koran would be as though the Emporer Constantine had written the Gospels.  This may account for some of the belligerance expressed in some of the suras of the Koran.

But fear is fear.  Western Civilization has withstoodeastern onslaught since the Battle of Thermopolyae in 480 BC.  As Dr. Stephen Hawking as well as others have said, the best predictor of the future is past experience.  Islam has been rebuffed from Europe and the west every time it has tried to conquer.  Why?  Our ideas are better.

That's why so many muslims are moving here.  And that's why Hannity and O'Reilly are wrong.  Muslims won't vote as a block.  Many will vote to uphold and continue to enjoy the civil and human rights they came here to find.  I believe so strongly in the sanctity of our Western values to trust them, even to muslims, in the privacy of voting booths.